Ottoman Chief Physician Sālih Naṣrallah b. Sallūm al-Ḥalabī

By Professor Salim Ayduz, BMHC

Sālih Naṣrallah b. Sallūm al-Ḥalabī – Born in Aleppo? – Died in Yenişehir, 3 September 1669)

His full name was Sālih Naṣrallah b. Sallūm al-Ḥalabī and is more commonly known as Ibn Sallūm. He was born a Catholic Christian, and later in life, he reverted to Islam. After he graduated from madrasa, he studied medicine in the main hospital of Aleppo. He worked for the governor of Aleppo, Ibshir Pasha and was invited to Istanbul by honour of the Vizier (Sadaret Payesi). In Istanbul, he joined the conversation councils of Shaikh al-Islam Minkārizāde Yahya Efendi (died 1677).

Ibn Sallūm entered the Royal Physicians (atibbā-i hāssa) service in 1655; he was appointed to Fatih Dār al-Shifa as Chief Physician (hekimbaşı) and succeeded Hammalzāda Mehmed Efendi as Chief Physician (Raīs al-atibba) taking over by virtue of him taking income as an arpalik (benefice, allowance for ottoman officials) from the city of Tekfurdağı (Tekirdağ) (July 1656). He took the ranks of Mecca (1661), Istanbul (1665) and the rank of Qādī of Anatolia (Anadolu Kazaskerliği). He was present during the first military expedition of Lehistan (Poland) and passed away in Teselya, Greece. Ibn Sallūm knew both Latin and Arabic. He had two sons, Muḥammad Amīn Efendi (d. 1709) a court scribe, and the other, Yahya Efendi who was Qādī of Rumeli (Kazasker of Rumeli) (d. 1705).

In the 17th century, Ibn Sallūm pioneered the movement for “new medicine” and “chemical medicine” which were initiated by the translations of works of Theophrastus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim Paracelsus (1493-1541) who was a Swiss physician-philosopher of the Renaissance. Ibn Sallūm translated the works that were available in Europe and he began a new movement in medicine. He made reference to the ideas of Paracelsus in his own works, and included his own experiences as well as classical Islamic medicine, and helped to develop new methods in medical treatments.

Ibn Sallūm’s first written work called Gāyat al-bayān fī tadbīr al-badan al-insān was done by under the instruction of Sultan Mehmet IV. The Sultan rewarded him for his work by presenting him with a sable skin fur coat (samur kürk), a highly prized and valued fur. He added original contributions to his works resulting in a compilation.

Most of his work was in the Arabic, but as his popularity increased amongst those in the medical field, they were translated into English. There are numerous copies of his works in libraries reflecting upon the importance and usefulness of his contribution in the field of medicine which has been greatly valued by physicians.

Sultan Mehmet IV (r. 1648 - 1687).

Sultan Mehmet IV (r. 1648 – 1687).

His Works

  1. Gāyat al-bayān fī tadbīr al-badan al-insān (Turkish) is the first work of Ibn Sallūm. It was compiled under the command of Sultan Mehmet IV (r. 1648 – 1687). It primarily deals with public health giving an insight into many diseases and the various drugs used for the cure of these diseases.

    In the foreword of the book, Ibn Sallūm mentions that the Sultan Mehmet was eager to see the new pioneering developments occurring in his country especially in the field of medicine. Many drugs are mentioned in the book as well as the medicines made from them, of which some of the drugs mentioned are still being used today for certain treatments. It also analyses balms, cements, pills and their preparation techniques. Examples of medical folklore can also be found in this work. Adnan Adıvar claims that this work is the translation of a work called “Dynameron” (1280) by Nicalous Myrepsos.

  2. Gāyat al-‘itkān fī tadbiri badan al-insān (Arabic) is the second most important work of İbn Sallūm and the Arabic edition of his previous work. It deals with the subject of general medicine and consists of four articles. The first article is known as “Kulliyat” and it analyses Sharabī drugs. The second one is “farmakope”. The third one is about fevered diseases and some miasmal. The forth article describes diseases of the human body.


    The book also talks about some diseases like syphilis, plica, polonica and skorbut. But these are rarely encountered nowadays. The book was unfinished due to his death and was later completed by Ahmed Abû Al-Su’ûd, the chief physician of Fatih Dār al-Shifa and by request of his son Yahya Efendi.


    The cover page of Nuzhat al-abdān fī tarjamati Gāyat al-itkān. It was printed in 1304 in Istanbul.

    The book was translated into Turkish as Nuzhat al-abdān fī tarjamati Gāyat al-itkān by Abu al-Fayz Mustafa b. Ahmed the head doctor of Dār al-Shifa, having been requested by Fayzullah Efendi, a soldier serving in the army and also a grandchild of Ibn Sallūm (1728). There are a number of copies of this manuscript in Turkey and in libraries around the world.

    Another cover page of Nuzhat al-abdān fī tarjamati Gāyat al-itkān. It was printed in 1303 in Istanbul.

    Another cover page of Nuzhat al-abdān fī tarjamati Gāyat al-itkān. It was printed in 1303 in Istanbul.

    A sample page from Nuzhat al-abdān fī tarjamati Gāyat al-itkān. It is the beginning page for “Amraz al-Atfâl) paediatrics.

    A sample page from Nuzhat al-abdān fī tarjamati Gāyat al-itkān. It is the beginning page for “Amraz al-Atfâl) paediatrics.

  3. Tarjamat Tibb Jadīd Kimyaī / Tarjamat Akrabazin al-Jadid (Arabic) is the Arabic translation of Latin work of Senartus’ Pharmacologie book based upon ‘The Biochemical’ of Paracelsus. Ibn Sallūm started this translation with the help of Nikola, one of the royal physicians. Upon the death of Ibn Sallūm at the end of the sixth article, Nikola completed the translation with the help of Hayātizāde Damadi Suleyman b. Ibrahim. It was not just a translation. It contains some drugs which are herbal, animal and mineral based. It focuses on medical-chemical issues and he utilises the ideas of Paracelsus and other European physicians as well as the additions of his own experiences and ideas.

    It was translated into Turkish a number of times, firstly as Tarjamai Krabazin Jadīd by Süleyman Efendi and Mustafa Fayzī Efendi. It was later translated again as Gāyat al-mutarakkī fī tadbīr kull al-maraḍ by the Chief Physician Davulcu Hasan. Another translation was made by Gevrekzāde Hasan Efendi entitled Murshīd al-libās fī tarjamai Ispagiriya. Finally, it was translated into Turkish as Minhāj al-Shifa fī Tibb al-Kimya by Omar Shifaī. (copy of the manuscript Bağdatli Vehbi, Ms 1374, 55 folios).

  4. Tarjamat al-Ṭibb al-Jadīd al-Kimyāī li-Paracelsus (Arabic). This is a compilation from European books based upon new Paracelsusian medicine. It may not have been written by Ibn Sallūm. (Suleymaniye, Ayasofya MS 3671 31 folios).
  5. “Akrabadīn (Turkish) (Millet Library, Ali Emiri, Tib MS 28, 208 folios) consists of one preface, four articles and one epilogue.
  6. Bur’a’l-sa’a fī al-Tibb (Turkish). (Suleymaniye Library, Hacı Mahmud MS 5524/2, vr 53-55, 2 folios, Feridun Nafiz Uzluk, MS 130/5, vr. 59a-62b, 3 folios). This treatise contains the diagnosis and treatments of all organs of the human body. It is believed to be a translation of one of Abū Bakr al-Rāzī’s works.
  7. al-Favā’īd al-Jadīda wa al-Ḳawā’id al-Ṭibbiya (Turkish).
    This piece of work gives descriptions of the various drugs and explains which one would be suitable for a particular sickness. The names of the drugs are listed alphabetically. (Aziz Mahmud Hudai, MS 1735/1, 93 folios.).
  8. Risāla (Faṣl) fī Bayān Skorput (Arabic). It was translated from the book Senartus al-Germāni which dealt with the condition of gingival disease. (Istanbul University Library, MS AY 4705/3, TY 4234/6, Suleymaniye Ayasofya, MS 3682/2).
  9. Murakkabāt (Arabic). It is about medicine.
  10. Risāla fī al-Tibb (Turkish). In this book, Ibn Sallūm presents himself as Mīr Ṣāliḥ b. Ḥavābinī. This book consist of 130 chapters (bāb) and describes the general diseases of the human body and their treatments such as poisoning, surgery, pregnancy and birth.
  11. Tarjamat Risāla fī al-Ḥummiyāt al-Radiyya wa al-Wabāiyya (Arabic). It is the Arabic translation of the Spanish physician Merkados’ book which is related to dental plaque and inflammatory diseases, and consists of two articles. (Istanbul University Library, AY 4705/2).

Further Reading

  • Prime Minister Ottoman Archive, Istanbul, Kamil Kepeci, 3407, p. 85; no. 3408, p. 73; no. 3409, p. 91; no. 3410, p. 54; no. 3411, p. 101; no. 3412, p. 47;
  • “Ibn Sellum”, Dā’irat al-ma’ārif al-İslāmiyya, Tahran 1369, VI, 702-703;
  • A. Demirhan Erdemir, “Hekimbaşı Salih bin Nasrullah (?-1669)”, Türk Dünyası Araştırmaları, 100 (1996), pp. 195-202;
  • Adnan Adıvar, Osmanlı Türklerinde İlim, Istanbul 1982, pp. 130-132;
  • Ali Haydar Bayat, Osmanli Devleti’nde Hekimbasilik Kurumu ve Hekimbasilar, AYK-AKM, Ankara 1999, pp. 69-71;
  • Ali Haydar Bayat, Tip Tarihi, pp. 262-263.
  • B. N. Sehsuvaroglu, Eczacilik Tarihi Dersleri, pp. 293-294;
  • Bursali Mehmet Tahir, Osmanli Muellifleri, III, p. 224;
  • Cevat İzgi, Osmanlı Medreselerinde İlim, İstanbul 1998, II, 93-94.
  • Esin Kahya-Aysegul Erdemir, Bilimin Isiginda Osmanlidan Cumhuriyete Tip ve Saglik Kurumları, pp. 179-186;
  • George Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, New York 1975, II, 239, 1094;
  • Gulbin Ozcelikay-Eris Asil, “Nasrullahoglu Salih’in Gayetul beyan fi Tedbiri Bedenil insan Adli Eseri Uzerinde bir inceleme”, TV. Turk Eczacilik Tarihi Toplantisi Bildirileri, pp. 249-260;
  • Gulsel Kavalalı, “Hekimbasi Halepli Salih bin Nasrullah’ın Eczacilik Bilimi ve Deontolojisine Katkilan”, III. Turk Tip Tarihi Kongresi, kongreye Sunulan Bildiriler, Istanbul 20-23 Eylul 1993, Ankara 1999, pp. 277-281;
  • History of the Literature of Medical Sciences during the Ottoman Period, E. Ihsanoglu at all, Istanbul: IRCICA 2008, I, 261-280.
  • Katib Chalabi, Kashf al-zunūn Zayl, I, p. 176;
  • Kemal Sabri Kolta, “Hekimbaşı Salih b. Nasrullah b. Sellum’un Görüşüne Göre Paracelsus”, Türk-Alman Tıbbī İlişkileri Sempozyum Bildirileri, 18-19 Ekim 1976 (ed. A. Terzioğlu), İstanbul 1981, pp. 93-100;
  • Klein-Franke Felix, “Paracelsus Arabus” Medizini Historichus Journal, Band 10 Heft. 1, 1975, p. 50;
  • M. Kamal Sahhada, “al-Tibb al-Cadid al-Kimyai li’l-Tabib Salih b. Nasrullah b. Sallum al-Halabi, Tahkik va Dirasa va Tahlil, Haleb University, Ma’had al-Turas al-‘ilm al-‘Arabi, Master Dissertation, 1405/1984;
  • M. Kamal Sahhada, al-Tibb al-Cadid al-Kimyai al-Tabib Salih Nasrullah b. Sallum al-Halabi al-Tayarat al-Tibbiyyat al-Urubiyya fi ‘Asr al-Nahza va Sira’ha ma’ al-Tib al-Taklidi, Cami’a Halab Ma’had Turas al-‘ilm, 1997;
  • M. Ullmann, Die Medizin im Islam, Leiden 1970, s. 182-184;
  • Mehmed Sureyya, Sijilli Osmani, III, 203;
  • Mukerrem Bedizel Zulfikar Aydın, “18. Yüzyila Ait Türkce Müfredat Kitapları ve Turk Tip Tarihindeki Yeri”, Tip Tarihi Arastirmalari, VII, Istanbul 1998, p. 78;
  • Nasrallahoglu Salih, ed. Abdi Ozkok, Gayetul beyan fi Tedbiri’l-Bedeni’l-insan (insan Sagligini Koruma Yontemleri), II kitap Ankara, 1992;
  • Nil San-M. Bedizel Zulfikar, “The Paracelsusian Influence on Ottoman Medicine in The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries”, Transfer of Modem Science & Technology to the Muslim World, Istanbul 1992, s. 157-158, ed. E. Ihsanoglu, IRCICA;
  • Osman Şevki, Beş Buçuk Asırlık Türk Tababeti Tarihi, p. 162;
  • Ramazan Şeşen, Fihrisü Mahtutatü’l-tıbbi’l-İslāmi, pp. 44-52, 263;
  • Rāşid, Tarih, I, p. 96;
  • Salim Ayduz, “İbn Sellum”, Yasamlari ve Yapitlariyla Osmanlilar Ansiklopedisi, İstanbul 1999, I, 609-610;
  • Uşşakizāde Abdullah Efendi, Zayl-i Shakayik, pp. 408-409;
  • Uzunçarşılı, Osmanlı Tarihi, III/II, Ankara: TTK, 1988, pp. 512-513.